Annabel Neasham expects Zaaki to rebound brilliantly in her “grand finale” this weekend.
The seven-year-old remained Cox Plate’s favorite despite losing in the last start in the Might And Power Stakes at Caulfield when he was third behind Probabeel and Nonconformist.
Since dropping down to $ 1.20, there have been negative talks about the two-time Group 1 winner beating a small field in the Underwood Stakes at Sandown in late September, but Neasham doesn’t understand why.
“What I don’t understand is the criticism of her victory at Underwood,” she said on SEN Track Spring Race Breakfast.
“He won by two lengths hands and heels. I can’t believe people say they don’t like racing, I loved it. He won a Group 1 by two lengths.
“Dan O’Sullivan’s notes, if you read them, he rated his (Underwood) victory higher than his Tramway victory and that was right there with his run at Hollindale.
“So for me, I have absolutely no problem with his Underwood run, I think we’re on the right track.”
Neasham says The Valley’s Cox plate has always been the target of importation.
She is convinced that her work on the track in preparation has given her the right foundations to run well in the biggest race of her career.
“He was prepared for this to be his grand finale,” he added.
“He absolutely flies. I thought his work on Saturday and Tuesday around The Valley was great, it was as good as it normally is.
“I don’t want to change much. He is a healthy horse. There is a lot of talk about there having been some issues with him which is a bunch of garbage. If there were any problems with him, he wouldn’t pass the vet checks.
“To me it looked like the Zaaki I wanted to see.
“We have prepared him for this race since we put him in the paddock at the end of the last campaign. I did everything I could, there is nothing either and if he is right he will be good enough.
“If he’s not he isn’t, but we’ve done everything we can and I’m confident he can have a really big race.”
The Neasham team also rides in the Mo’unga saddle which will move at good odds in both directions.
This preparation, Savebeel’s son won the Winx Stakes, beating Verry Elleegant, finished second at Incentivize in the Diva Makybe, and then produced a quick fifth place at Epsom.
So how is Mo’unga going to get ahead of the Cox Plate?
“Huge. If for some reason Zaaki doesn’t show up, don’t be surprised Mo’unga does,” Neasham said.
“He never had a bad race. He was jumping as the favorite and second seed for the Golden Eagle for a long time and it’s a $ 7.5 million run.
“So getting away from that and sending him over there to run in the Cox Plate tells you how much I think about the horse.
“He approached Incentivize two starts ago. I know Incentivize was first, but it was a great run. He beat Verry Elleegant in the Winx Stakes and I thought his Epsom run was huge.
“The Cox Plate is a race I desperately want to win, so having two live chances is better than one.
“He’s going great guns. I’m pretty excited to put the blinders on, Hugh Bowman and he’s drawn a door that he doesn’t normally do.
“It’s a huge chance.”
Zaaki, who will be ridden by James McDonald, is a $ 3 favorite with most bookies, while Mo’unga, for Hugh Bowman, is $ 13.